Updated 5:44 p.m.
CT Mirror can confidently report today the names of 42 candidates for the Connecticut General Assembly who will be elected on Nov. 8, as well as the names of 30 incumbents who will not be winning another term.
That’s not based on polling, a deep analysis of voting patterns, tea leaves, Tarot cards or peeking at votes already cast by absentee ballot. No, those are the numbers of candidates running unopposed — and incumbents not running at all.
The reasons suspected by party leaders are varied, some old and others new.
There is nothing new about some districts being uncompetitive. But the leaders say other factors are, perhaps, a newer sensitivity to work-life tensions arising from irregular hours and so-so pay, combined with political factors such as polarization and districts newly drawn to discourage competition.
“I just think there’s a lot of personal turmoil and uprooting that have gone on and volatility over the last few years, so the last thing in the world people are thinking about is jumping into public service,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.
“We’ve made the pay better,” said House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “Maybe that will attract a broader pool.”
Some day, perhaps, but not this year.
Some legislators run unopposed
In 39 House and three Senate races, there is one unopposed candidate.
In another three House districts, only one major party made a nomination, leaving Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, and Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, with only minor-party or petitioning challengers.
That means no major party candidate in 28% of the 151 House Districts.
Sens. Douglas McCrory of Hartford, Derek Slap of West Hartford and Joan Hartley of Waterbury are the only unopposed candidates in the Senate. All three are Democrats.
McCrory and Hartley often go unopposed. Slap is getting his first free ride after winning two contested races for the seat, the first a special election in 2019. He won with 63% of the vote in 2019 and 65% a year later.
Some seats go uncontested because their districts are so lopsided, meaning the only test at the polls comes if there is a primary.
Joe Hoxha, the winner of the Republican primary in August to succeed the retiring Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, has no opponent in November.
In Darien, Tracy Marra was guaranteed a win simply by being nominated by Republicans for the open seat being vacated by the long-serving Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien. Marra had no primary in August and has no opponent in November.
Rep. Cindy Harrison, R-Southbury, had to win a primary as a challenger after losing the party’s endorsement. She is unopposed on Nov. 8.
“You know, in those cases, it seems like a lost cause to begin with,” said Ritter, one of five representatives from Hartford, none with an opponent.
Of the 25 uncontested House Democrats, 10 are from Hartford or the inner ring suburbs of East Hartford, West Hartford and Bloomfield.
It’s not always a good thing for the party in power. Money spent on communicating with voters from the top to the bottom of the ticket has a cumulative effect — a nudge to show up on election day.
With no competitive down-ballot races, the burden is greater on Gov. Ned Lamont and the rest of the statewide Democratic ticket to turn out the vote in places where the vast majority of those who show up will go Democratic.
“Sometimes there’s this sort of this feeling, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, at the statewide level that it’d be better [for Republicans] to not run candidates in the cities, because it drives up the amount of money people get through the Citizens Election Program,” Ritter said.
In contested races, House candidates who qualify for public financing from the CEP get general election grants of $33,175. In uncontested races, the grants for direct mail and other outreach are reduced by more than two thirds to $9,952.
If that is a strategy, it is not universal.
“New Haven and Bridgeport have Republicans running. Maybe their feeling is we’d rather get our grants to go and do the best that we can, to go out there and motivate people,” Ritter said.
Republicans are contesting for all five House seats based in Bridgeport and three of five in New Haven.
Some of the revisions to district maps that took effect this year in response to census changes are factors in the free ride going to Rep. Michael Quinn, D-Meriden.
Quinn did slightly better, garnering 52% of the vote.
Redistricting is a bipartisan exercise, one in which the leaders of both parties take care of incumbents. Republican-leaning portions of their districts ended up in the 90th District represented by Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford.
Fishbein won by just seven votes over Democrat Jim Jinks two years ago. He does have an opponent this year, but it’s not Jinks. The new maps put the man who nearly beat him in the district of Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire.
Some legislators aren’t running for reelection
There are 22 House members and eight senators not running again, half Democrats and half Republicans. Two announced their decisions on the opening day of the 2022 session, saying that legislative hours do not mix well with outside jobs.
Legislative pay, for most people, requires outside work.
Annual base pay for lawmakers will go from $28,000 to $40,000 on Jan. 4, 2023, the start of the next two-year terms for 151 House and 36 Senate members. The raises are the first in two decades — and the last requiring legislative action.
Salaries of lawmakers will be pegged to the Employment Cost Index, a measure of wage growth calculated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the same index that will be used to calculate minimum wage increases after 2023.
Of the retiring members of the House and Senate, not everyone is fleeing elective politics.
Reps. Sean Scanlon of Guilford and Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk are on the Democratic statewide ticket; Scanlon is the nominee for comptroller, Thomas for secretary of the state.
Six of the 11 House Republicans leaving the House also sought or are seeking new elective jobs.
Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck is running for probate judge. Stephen Harding of Brookfield is candidate for state Senate. Mike France of Ledyard is running for Congress.
Wood lost a primary for secretary of the state. Harry Arora of Greenwich and Laura Devlin are on the GOP ticket; Arora is the nominee for treasurer, Devlin for lieutenant governor.
Correction: Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, is opposed by Republican Randy Raines of Cheshire in the 103rd House District. Based on outdated information provided last week by the secretary of the state’s office, our elections newsletter reported Linehan was unopposed.